A video call is truly a wondrous event, if one pauses to think. Up until 100 years ago, most people, those who aren’t dedicated to following scientific advances and predicting future technology, would have called it magic. And in fact, some people in more recent years have also identified virtual meeting technology as a brand of magic. The people in question are authors of the fantasy genre.
That’s right. Authors who write fantastical tales about such things as giant, flying, fire breathing dragons, wizards with dark powers, magical weapons and secret cities, have also written about long distance visual and aural communication as a brand of magic! Let’s explore how some of these authors depicted what we now know as video calls together! Spoilers Ahead!
Originally marketed as The Inheritance Trilogy, The Inheritance Cycle is a series of books written by Christopher Paolini, following the adventures of Eragon (the series’ main protagonist; eponymous with the first book of the series) and his dragon Saphira in the mystical land of Alagaesia. You might have heard of this particular book series because a feature film called Eragon was made based on the first book, starring Ed Speelers as the titular Eragon and featuring John Malkovich as King Galbatorix.
At the end of the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon must leave the continent of Alagaesia forever to reside on some distant island, and the newly crowned Rebel Queen, Nasuada, tells him that she’s going to miss him. Eragon responds that they’re going to scry all the time, in much the same spirit that I’d tell a friend “Peace, I’ll catch you on Banty”. “Scrying” here is a form of visual and aural communication which enables participants to see and hear each other in real time, much like video communication. Only instead of relying on technology we know today, it relies on two pieces of enchanted glass, possibly mirrors. I disremember the full details. To be fair, that was just one form of scrying. There were other forms that were more about scouting, and spying, etc.
There’s a similar concept with a different name in the Harry Potter books. Since you’re on the internet and you’re reading this article I’ll just go ahead and assume you’ve heard of the Harry Potter Book Series. Even without the movies made about the books, the series is unbelievably famous. Magical kid goes to a school for witches and wizards. There are all kinds of magical fictions written about in those books. To name a few details from the aforementioned fictions; magical newspapers, magical chocolate frogs, eagle-horse hybrids, unicorns, and yes, you guessed it, dragons.
So the titular Harry Potter has a godfather, Sirius Black, whom he believes betrayed his parents to their death. They work through that and become the best of friends (His godfather didn’t betray his parents). Sirius gives Harry something called a two way mirror at some point. The way it works is that if Harry called out Sirius’s name, Sirius would show up in another mirror on his own end, projecting into Harry’s mirror. They could then interact with each other visually and aurally in real time, just like in a Banty call.
The Lord of The Rings is a novel of three volumes by J. R. R. Tolkien. You’ve probably also heard of this one because of the epic movie trilogy involving Peter Jackson. The LOTR tells the story of the One Ring of Power and how, for the future of Middle-Earth, an unlikely champion, aided by some more classically heroic figures, sets out on a journey to destroy that One Ring in the same volcano it was forged. Of course while dragons don’t feature too much in this particular story line (They’re still part of the fictional universe the books are set in) there’s all manner of magical fillings; elves, orcs, trolls and wraiths.
Depicted in both the films and the books are the palantiri. Magically powerful crystal orbs that some characters can use to gaze into the future or the past. Apparently if the character is not strong or experienced enough, a palantir (singular palantiri) can show the character irrelevant events, or even be directed to show the character something else by a more powerful character who also possesses a palantir. However, these palantirs are more than just glorified crystal balls. They’re video calling devices! Two characters in possession of a palantir each could also communicate visually and aurally together in real time! This one's different because Tolkien actually wrote The LOTR in the 1930's, before video calling was even conceived as an "impractical idea" in the 1960's!
We hope you found this reflection on the fantastically miraculous nature of video conferencing software technology entertaining. To entertain yourself even further, go ahead and read this article about the games you can play with Banty, then grab a free trial for one of our services for a full 14 days!